The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Korean Drama’s aka K-Drama’s need no introduction because they are internationally known for being cinematic masterpieces that continuously deliver above and beyond when comes to quality entertainment. K-Dramas are life and I’m here to sustain you with some of my favourite releases from this year. If you haven’t stepped into the world of K-Dramas yet, these could also be your introductory series to a world of love, fashion, Korean culture and endless comedy. Be warned – once you watch one, you won’t remember what life was like without them. Like the brilliant Bong Joon-ho said, “‘Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films” and series.
Vincenzo Cassano, played by Song Joong-ki, is a South Korean man who was abandoned by his mother which led to him being adopted by an Italian family, the Cassano’s, at the age of eight. The Cassano’s happen to be the Mafia and Vincenzo grows up in Italy as a high-ranking member in the Mafia’s hierarchy, holding the position of the family’s consigliere (chief advisor/lawyer within the Mafia). The series begins with him intending to have a very short stay in his birth country after the death of his adopted father. Primarily, to get away from his reckless, power-hungry brother that has created deadly tensions between other families and to retrieve gold locked up in a vault at the Geumga Plaza in Seoul. When he arrives in Korea, the skilled and principled assassin is scammed on his way to the Plaza and encounters the most eccentric characters living in the building housing his gold. The first episode foreshadows the comedic nature of the series and illustrates from the onset that the villainous protagonist is not invincible but will always manage to use his intelligence and his experience as the Mafia’s consigliere to handle the situations he and his new community find themselves in. The drama follows his journey beginning with his quest to retrieve his gold, to him working with Lawyer Hong Cha-Young, played by Jeon Yeo-been, to bring down a corporate giant run by a psychopath and protected by greedy lawyers all in the name of social justice. The Netflix series has 20 episodes that are approximately an hour-long filled with action, dark means to greater goods, laughs and a sprinkle of romance.
Based on a Webtoon, written by Jeong-seo, Nevertheless is one of the very few K-Dramas that reflects an authentic university life. It portrays different relationships; there is a couple that is ‘vibing’ but not officially, there are hook-ups involved, there is a character that wants to be in a committed relationship, but their crush is emotionally unavailable and prefers meaningless sex with strangers whilst there is also a very wholesome lesbian couple storyline. Being inclusive of an LGBTQI+ relationship and including casual flings is major for a South Korean show because most dramas have heterosexual couples and a slow-burn romance where holding hands is the peak of an episode. You can tell that this drama is directed by a woman through the dreamy cinematography, the brilliant soundtrack, and the scripts that illustrate genuine thoughts and fears experienced by young people in relationships. The drama deals with uncertainty in love, unrequited love, wearing your heart on your sleeve, and the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with being vulnerable. The main characters of this drama are Yoo Na-bi (which also means butterfly, a very important fact!) played by Han So-hee who is famous for her role as the mistress in the World of the Married, and Park Jae-on, played by Song Kang. This Netflix series is 10 episodes long with each episode being an hour long – If you’re into screaming at your screen as the main character makes the wrong decisions and falls for the toxic bad boy, this one is for you!
3 True Beauty
True Beauty is based on a Webtoon written by Yaongyi aka Kim Na Young. Seoul is known as the world’s capital of plastic surgery because there is a huge pressure to be beautiful, according to the standards set in the modern countries of East Asia. Lim Ju-kyung, played by Moon Ga-young, is an eighteen-year-old that is repulsed (I’m not being dramatic) by her appearance. She is bullied for being “ugly” at school and she further internalises her perceived unattractiveness. When financial circumstances lead to her family having to move to a different district, Ju-kyung must transfer schools. This move happens at the same time as her discovery of the power of make-up. She masters her cosmetic beauty skills and transforms herself into someone deemed gorgeous by her new classmates and social media followers whilst cultivating a love for the beauty industry and dreams of being a renowned make-up guru. Her make-up becomes her shield, and she works endlessly to ensure that her bare face is never seen by her new friends because she believes that once they know the “real” her they will shun her. She fails to give her friends the benefit of the doubt and does not consider that she is someone worthy of love because of her persona and kindness. Nonetheless, Lee Su-ho, played by ASTRO’s Cha Eun-woo, and Han Seo-jun, played by Hwang In-youp, both fall in love with Ju-kyung. With both of them knowing how she looks without the make-up because – spoiler alert – beauty lies within! True Beauty is a very sweet drama that touches on the harmful nature of the obsession with appearance in Korea (and honestly the rest of the world) whilst shedding light on the importance of meaningful friendships, depth in interactions and the importance of moderation in all things, because its okay to be into make-up but one should never be dependent on anything. True Beauty has 16 episodes that are an hour long each although the comedy offered by the colourful characters and the different storylines make each episode feel like a lifetimes worth of experience in 15 minutes.
4 Lovestruck in the City
Lovestruck in the City is a Netflix series about six people recounting their relationship history; the good times, the bad times, the ones that got away, and the ones they never want to see again. Although the series deals with multiple storylines throughout the episodes, there is the main couple: a successful architect Park Jae-won played by Ji Chang-wook, and a struggling freelance marketer Choi Kyeong-jun, played by Kim Min-seok. The two meet in Yangyang, and although both of them fall in love with each other, one of them bails on the fantasy life they have created, taking some pictures to remember whilst the other lives in resentment of the “camera thief” (watch the show if that doesn’t make sense). Both live in Seoul and are connected in ways they do not know will lead them to reunite. The drama is about love, but it also touches on the hardships faced by young people in a competitive city such as Seoul and the difficulties of getting by whilst juggling complicated romances and not losing a sense of oneself in the midst of it all. Without the dramatic and sometimes unrealistic twists prominent in most K-Dramas, the 17 episodes that are each 30 minutes long break the fourth wall as the characters are interviewed on their thoughts on life and create an intimate and comfortable environment for viewers. This is a relatable series as we all know that living in a capitalist society is overwhelming and there is not much one can do but keep going but it still provides enough entertainment to serve as an escape from the issues explored in the drama. Definitely a 10/10.
5 My Roommate is a Gumiho
This fantasy drama relates to an ancient South Korean folklore creature, a gumiho; a nine-tailed fox with the magical ability to transform into anything or anyone. Gumiho’s are believed to have the ability to change into visually attractive human beings to (presumably) draw the attention of the opposite sex and eat their liver or heart to sustain themselves. In this drama, professor Shin Woo-yeo, played by Jang Ki-yong, is 999 years old and must turn into a human by his 1000th birthday otherwise he will be doomed. To live he needs more energy from a human. Fate makes him collide with a university student, Lee Dam played by, Lee Hyeri, who accidentally swallows Woo-yeo’s magical and human energy bead that makes her become the source of his energy, since gumiho’s in the drama feed off humans with beads and not by indulging in human organs (thank goodness!). Lee Dam and the professor end up living together to deal with the bead situation because how else will the love story unfold?? The two need to figure out how to get the bead out of Lee Dam’s system because although it can live inside a human for one year, one the trip around the sun is over the bead kills its human host because it consumes human energy. As the gorgeous and ancient professor and the chicken and beer loving student devise a plan to save themselves, they begin to develop feelings for each other. Leading to the professor worrying about the detrimental consequences of absorbing Lee Dam’s energy and hurting her to sustain himself, making him have to decide between his own demise or Lee Dam’s demise. Although this fantasy revolves around life and death, it has a light and witty script that is delivered perfectly by the talented cast. This TvN drama consists of 16 episodes and is cute, hilarious, and touching.
These are some of the many K-Dramas that have been released in 2021 thus far. They all boast riveting and vibrant storylines, casts, aesthetics, soundtracks and fashion looks in unique ways. If you ever find yourself needing a pick me up, these K-Dramas are here to make you smile, feel every emotion a human is capable of experiencing and give your heart a squeeze with the romance, dazzling scenes and the (sometimes) overly dramatic slow motion shots. If you wizz through this list and need your K-Drama supply filled up, you should watch the newest and ongoing drama at the time of writing: Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha – I won’t say anything other than the fact that Kim Seon-ho and Shin Min-a are making my weeks with this one. Trust me, its a breathe of fresh air!